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At a strange intersection of customs exists my cultural essence; I am the product of an infinitely improbable arrangement of DNA. Seemingly, Fate threw darts at a board to select my parents from the world’s population, and just this once they landed on a Nicaraguan war refugee that I affectionately refer to as “mom” and an nth generation Irish naval corpsman from the suburbs known to me as “dad.” Such is life, and Austin came to be a child of divided culture: a child of two languages, two families, two coexisting and yet so vastly different identities.
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Mom’s dancing in the living room to her favorite Zumba workout tape, and Dad’s sitting in the kitchen, screening some Discovery special as he diligently finishes his paperwork; I exist as the fusion thereof.
My Nicaraguan heritage is a subtle presence in the otherwise culturally homogenous sphere of vanilla blandness that is Fairview, Pennsylvania. However, upon visiting my family in Miami, I’m treated to the cultural variety that is the essence of what it means to be Hispanic. Two springs ago, my family and I found ourselves at the Calle Ocho festival, in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. It was an awakening to the heritage I had yet to fully acknowledge; my integration into the Hispanic community transcends nationality and embraces the commonality of its members. The Cuban espresso shots I enjoyed served as my impromptu induction into my mother’s cultural community. It’s fitting I would rediscover myself in city my mother spent her teenage years; I found my heritage hiding in the festival’s rhythmic bongo beats.
The Hispanic community is warmly welcoming, passionate and energetic, and I am proud to be a part of it. To be Hispanic in the United States is to denounce divisive nationalities and embrace newfound ethnic commonality. My mother has given me more than just a heritage language, she’s served as my liaison to a vibrant community full of el duende, a passionate energy whose variable and untranslatable meaning is yet another demonstration of the bonding nature of being Hispanic. When I speak to my Dominican friend, our connection extends beyond the superficial fact that we’re usually speaking Spanish. Our upbringings in a predominately Caucasian environment have been subtly interwoven with our mothers’ past heritage. There’s nothing better than having a dancing mother who chastises me in Spanglish to make my bed.
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I am an Irish-Nicaraguan who wishes to make the best of what his mother has given him. She’s connected me to a vibrant, welcoming community, and her dedication has allowed me to live without the poverty and disadvantage she had to withstand as an unfortunate byproduct of her community. I’m advantaged with a mother who has overcome obstacles far greater than those that I must face. My cultural experience has driven me to achieve through my duality: to succeed not just as Austin, but to succeed for the sake of validating my mother’s continuing efforts and for the diverse, energetic Hispanic connection she’s given me.
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